Cortical deep projection neurons (DPNs) are implicated in neurodevelopmental disorders. Although recent findings emphasize post-mitotic programs in projection neuron fate selection, the establishment of primate DPN identity during layer formation is not well understood. The subplate lies underneath the developing cortex and is a post-mitotic compartment that is transiently and disproportionately enlarged in primates in the second trimester. The evolutionary significance of subplate expansion, the molecular identity of its neurons, and its contribution to primate corticogenesis remain open questions. By modeling subplate formation with human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), we show that all classes of cortical DPNs can be specified from subplate neurons (SPNs). Post-mitotic WNT signaling regulates DPN class selection, and DPNs in the caudal fetal cortex appear to exclusively derive from SPNs. Our findings indicate that SPNs have evolved in primates as an important source of DPNs that contribute to cortical lamination prior to their known role in circuit formation.
Cartilaginous structures are at the core of embryo growth and shaping before the bone forms. Here we report a novel principle of vertebrate cartilage growth that is based on introducing transversally-oriented clones into pre-existing cartilage. This mechanism of growth uncouples the lateral expansion of curved cartilaginous sheets from the control of cartilage thickness, a process which might be the evolutionary mechanism underlying adaptations of facial shape. In rod-shaped cartilage structures (Meckel, ribs and skeletal elements in developing limbs), the transverse integration of clonal columns determines the well-defined diameter and resulting rod-like morphology. We were able to alter cartilage shape by experimentally manipulating clonal geometries. Using in silico modeling, we discovered that anisotropic proliferation might explain cartilage bending and groove formation at the macro-scale.